Four Thoughts on Formative Assessment – Buzz from Twitter

Four Thoughts on Formative Assessment - Buzz from TwitterTwitter is a great social media tool for gathering information, thoughts, and insights on just about any topic under the sun; formative assessment is no exception. With that said, here are four recent tweets from on formative assessment – and what they sparked for me.

1. ‘True formative assessment is neither safe nor passive; it provokes. It compels a response in the teacher & student.’ (Rick Wormeli – @RickWormeli)

It provides everyone the opportunity to take a risk. It sets the stage for a culture of learning. When students discover that mistakes provide an opportunity to learn a shift happens and that shift leads students (and teachers) to a place where learning occurs in new ways and at new times. Watching an Algebra classroom of previously unsuccessful students suddenly burst into dialogue as a problem is dissected is a treat. The answer on the board was incorrect (so the risk of solving a problem on the board). Each piece of the solution was commented on by multiple students (frequently at the same time – definitely not passive) and the scoring of the solution became a lively debate amongst the students and the teacher. Students learned different places in one solution where errors might occur (and potentially lead to others), as well as having the opportunity to think aloud with their peers. It was about learning as much as possible from each and every problem.

2. ‘When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative assessment; when the customer tastes the soup, that’s summative assessment.’ (Mark Hess – @MarkHess98

This quote is actually from Robert Stakes and is such a clear analogy of the difference between formative and summative assessment. Just like the cook, we teachers need to pause in instruction and “taste” where kids are in their learning and understanding – use formative assessment. And while we can use formative to monitor progress, we may need to use interim to look at growth over time. With students “eating the soup” after thy have had both formative and interim checks along the way, the results should be much stronger (achievement higher).

3. ‘To me, formative assessment is ‘in the now’ assessment that informs future (or present) instruction.’ (Shawna Coppola – @ShawnaCoppola)

Jim Popham talks about three kinds of adjustments we can make with formative assessment – immediate, near future and far future. My question to you is what formative assessment can you use immediately to get data to allow you to make an immediate adjustment? Then the next question is how have you planned for potential adjustments?

4. ‘Formative assessment is listening, watching, and always thinking about your next step.’ (Kelly Duwve – @kelly_duwve)

For me, this applies to all members of the classroom learning team – the learner, their peers and the teacher. It is about total integration. Much (ok most) of what goes on in a classroom provides the classroom learning team the opportunity to gather data (macro data, according to Daniel Venables) that are actionable. And making students aware of and gatherers of this data is a great way to get them more engaged in their own learning (strategy number 5 in the keys to successful formative assessment practice.) It would be great to hear what kind of data you and your students are gathering from each of these modes – listening, watching and thinking.

Formative assessment is a powerful classroom and instructional tool as many of you know. Share your thoughts on what formative assessment means to you, your students, and the learning that takes place in your classroom. We might feature it in an upcoming blog. We’ll certainly share more thoughts from Twitter in the blogs ahead.